Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 18, 2011 12:31PM

Why Wisconsin is Vital

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Updated Below

Five daysEight Days.

The protests in Wisconsin have entered their fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth day. Teachers in Madison have again organized a sick-out and will be at the Capitol on Friday and Saturday (as of Tuesday, teachers are teaching again).  Democratic Senators left the state yesterday to ensure that there would be no quorum in the Senate.  Governor Walker, who threatened to call the National Guard on striking public employees, had the gall to use those same public workers in an attempt to shame the Democrats.

Their actions by leaving the state and hiding from voting are disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands of public employees who showed up to work today"

High School students are walking out of class and 25,000 people demonstrated at the Capitol yesterday.  The Tea Party is planning a counter-rally tomorrow.  This is democracy! Governor Walker's union busting bill and the public's reaction is important.  It shows where the Tea Party wants to takes us and where the public is ready to go.

This bill is not about austerity.  If Governor Walker had simply wanted public employees to pay more of their health care and contribute a larger portion to their pension, he could have introduced that bill.  Instead he proposed a bill that will strip the unions of their collective bargaining rights.  Collective bargaining is the entire point of unions.  It's how the 40-hour work week was created and it's what helped the middle class in the U.S.  to rapidly expand in the mid-twentieth century.  Collective bargaining is just about unions and their members, it's about all of us.

The unions still would have screamed and fought if the proposal was only about benefits,  because that's their job  They most likely would have agreed to changes.  That's how it went down in King County, Washington.  The County Executive worked with the unions, making his case that the health of the County relied on concessions from the unions in the negotiations.  The Unions agreed to forgo COLAs for the year.  The one union that refused, the Sheriff's Union, faces cuts.  Executive Constantine hasn't stopped talking to the Sheriff's Union, as Governor Walker has done, and even proposed a .1% tax increase to stop the cuts at the Sheriff's Department.  The public voted on the increase in November.  The Tea Party was supposed to return government to the people, but Governor Walker decided to rule by fiat and rush his bill through the Legislature.

What happens in Wisconsin is vital to the rest of the country.  There are proposals across the country that are fraternal twins to Governor Walker's bill.  Everyone has their eyes on Wisconsin.  The President made comments, as did Speaker Boehner.  Even Senator Orrin Hatch, who is apparently not conservative enough for Utah and has the shore up his credentials, had this to say:

"The only assault is from a bunch of self-interested government union employees who are putting their interests ahead of the interests of the Wisconsin taxpayers who have been funding their runaway spending."

These self-interested government union employees are teachers, DOT workers, prison guards.  They are the people who make our states and our country go, educate the next generation, and keep us safe.  Governor Walker cynically did not include police and firefighter unions in his bill hoping to keep them out of the protests.  It didn't work.  Republicans say the word unions with a sneer and want the public to think Tammany Hall, the corrupt dock workers from The Wire, and monocled fat cats counting their ill-gotten public money.  Unions go overboard at times and fight battles that were lost a long time ago.  They also need to be more open to change, especially teachers unions, but they are important.  Unions fought for, and won, the labor conditions that we all enjoy now.  They continue to fight for our rights today.

Though we are only two months into the next four years of Tea Party governors and the next two years of Tea Party Members of Congress, this week has been instructive.  Rick Scott turned down job-creating High Speed Rail money and Wisconsin exploded.  The protests for the last three days are a sign of things to come.  We are waking up to what Republicans and the Tea Party mean for our future and it's not good.  These demonstrations, those in Ohio and Tennessee and the organizing in Florida are bookends to the healthcare protests that ostensibly propelled the Tea Party into prominence and power.  For liberals, Wisconsin shows us that meaningful demonstration hasn't been bred out of us.  It shows us that we can organize quickly and keep the focus where it needs to be.

There's also this.  The Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature are seeking to disenfranchise student voters.  They are proposing a voter ID that will effectively keep students out of the voting booth.  Apparently students need even more barriers to civic engagement.  Though no one can ever really make the case the voter fraud is ruining elections, that the reason being cited.  It has absolutely nothing to with students tending to vote Democratic say the Republicans.  This is one effort out of many across the country.  Wisconsin matters.

Wisconsin means that 2012 might be more important than 2008.

Update:

Protesters are still in the State Capitol on Tuesday, February 22nd.  The 14 State Senators are still MIA across the border in Illinois and State Senate Republicans are threatening to take up other matters.  Teachers appear to be back in the classroom, heeding a call from the head of their union. 

Governor Walker is threatening layoffs, as early as next week, if the State Senators do not return to allow his Union Busting bill to pass.

A pro-union/demonstration website was apparently not accessible from the State House Monday and today.   Protesters are blaming Gov. Walker and the Republicans, but the State's DOA spokesperson claimed that the security software blocked the website, "as it does all new websites".  Whatever the reason, it couldn't look worse.

The Tea Party showed up, in large number over the weekend. Despite appearances by rightwing luminaries like Andrew Brietbart, opponents of the bill vastly outnumbered counter-protesters.  

The protests and similar bills are spreading.  Activists are packing the State House in Ohio to oppose similar measures by Governor Kasich and Indiana Democrats are leaving the state to avoid a losing vote on an anti-union bill.

Read more at wearenow.org

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The state is broke. All of your gyrations and protests don't change that fact. Missing from your post are suggestions to balance the budget.
100% with workers.
Question: where was everybody when this walker guy got elected.
I'm in Florida and we're trying to recall the governor Scott- who was indicted for medicare fraud. 2010 was a bust. Now we have to make up for it.
Robert Elwell - I can answer that in five words: raise taxes on the rich.
Robert--There is an excellent commentary in the thread here by BOKO that explains why in fact the state is not broke.

http://open.salon.com/blog/chicago_guy/2011/02/17/killing_the_wisconsin_idea

There is also no evidence that busting the union will help balance the budget.

Last month the state gave away 117 million in tax breaks. Had that not happened, there would have been a surplus. The source of this the state's fiscal bureau. So the answer to your question is simple---don't take from the poor to give to the rich.

But that's not even the reason why all this is so important.

One of the guiding principles of Wisconsin is called "The Wisconsin Idea." The "idea" states that no legislation shall be enacted that does not benefit the greatest number of people. So the reason that this fight is so important really had nothing to do with balancing a budget. Wisconsin's budget is no where near as bad off as many other states. The fight is about the very radical idea of the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Turns out that no one. NO ONE believes that trickle down stuff really works.

And union busting doesn't solve a budget problem
I did not know of the move to disenfranchise student voters. Thank you. It is revealing.

It also could be a misstep for the Reactionary Right. They might best have left well enough alone there. Students are notoriously fitful voters. But you cannot risk putting them in the streets. The streets are where the students are most effective. And particularly in the context of the Marxist's dream, so difficult to bring about in reality--students and workers in concert.
The state--$3.6-billion in the hole--is, uh, broke. And the disenfranchisement of student voter? Nay, nay. If you have an ID and are of legal age, you can vote. That line, that canard, is bloviation of the first magnitude.
I have an alternate plan if they don't want to accept the cuts...layoffs. Look, you can spin this anyway you want but Governor Walker ran on this platform and the PEOPLE of Wisconsin voted him in by 52%. they also decided to put the GOP in the majority in the Senate. You don't have to like it but the people , the teachers included, had their chance to speak at the ballot box and they did. The Wisconsin Constitution REQUIRES that they balance the budget. Something somewhere has to give. The taxpayers of Wisconsin are tired of footing this bill. This is nothing more than a union power struggle. The unions are already losing membership at an alarming rate. They might want to get a clue as to why. If they teachers aren't in class on Monday they should be removed and replaced. The same goes for the Dem Senator cowards who fled the state.
I'm with Elijah. 100% with the workers. Go get 'em. Great post.
@DJohn and @TheBadScot - This bill is not about the budget, it's about neutering a political opponent of the Governor and his party.

The $3.6 billion hole is not about public sector benefits - half it it is Medicaid. I believe that the Unions and their employees should be willing to pay more. I think that they would if this wasn't such gigantic gambit to end the Unions. If this is just about the deficit there is no reason to proscribe collective bargaining or the ability of the Unions to use dues for political purposes. Most states require a balanced budget and are dealing with the issue - by negotiating. Here, in Washington, unions have made concessions. Unions see the same reality that we all do. They may fight, it's what they do, but they would make concessions.

This bill is politics. It's all about union busting and weakening a donor to you opponents.
If the unions are willing to "pay more", then why don't they? Like, 12-percent of their health benefits, and a portion of their retirement benefits? Many unemployed would be happy with those terms. And, you say, the problem is Medicaid? You mean, free health care for all? Of course that's a problem. It's "free", but in fact, as we all know, nothing is "free". It might also help the teachers' unions if they actually delivered some education for their bucks.
@Robert Elwell - Remember the Gov. actually came into office with a surplus. Then proceded to enact a huge package of unfunded tax cuts that actually forced this whole budget "crisis". This isn't about balancing the budget, this is about destroying unions and the democratic tax base, and attacking working, middle-class americans.
the republicans on here sound like my parents. My mom came from a fairly poor farming/factory town in middle Illinois, she also preaches against the unions because it was how she was brought up to think. She thinks that the unions tried to kill Caterpillar and drove away the security of many. Well, Cat is still flourishing obviously, generations later. The truth is that the unions are the ones that protect our (lower and middle class) people. I only wish we had a viable nurses union where I live. I'd join in a heartbeat and I believe the quality of care afforded to the people in my area would go up 100 fold. The workers aren't the only ones unions protect.
Cleo, You say the governor came in with a surplus. He cut some taxes and now he is short 3.6 Billion dollars. That's Ms. Cleo math. He did not give out over $3 billion in tax cuts. Check your numbers.

Chicago Guy, How does $117 million in tax cuts turn into over 3 billion dollars? "Had that not happened, there would have been a surplus." Really, where did the other money go?

Michael, So you are upset that the unions will lose dues that they use to buy influence with politicians. How about if the unions used that money to do something productive for their members like fund their retirement or healthcare. Why give it to the fat cat K Street Lobby firm?

Also, how does an ID card keep students from voting? They walk in and give them their school ID, drivers licenses, state ID card etc and vote. How does this "disenfranchise" anyone other than the person claiming to be a dead person so they can vote twice?
Why is it on whatever blog and whatever issue catnliar appears on, his point of view is the contrarian one?

Maybe he is ALWAYS right.

Maybe he is the Messiah.
The efforts to restrict the vote are the flashpoint. Hopefully this will get people into the street and to the polls to protest and object and, if necessary, to block the vote. If some voters can't vote, then NOBODY should be able to vote, and we should make sure of that.
give it to them.

and what's with these fucking annoying audio-on ads all of a sudden? wtf? they got rid of these on yahoo and aol and youtube some time ago due to a little uprising of users...why should open salon have to put up with this shit?

yeah.
stu,
Walker is a tool. And like you said on another post, what's with his slicked-back haircut? It's a sleazy pro-business 80's thing, I think. It reminds me of the Sheen character in the first "Wall Street," only without the ethics.

And you know, Activia has been linked to serious liver damage. I swear. You should do a post.
The state is broke as they said.

lokaler
I am so tired of hearing "tax the rich"

Fine then. Let's tax corporations instead. Let's nail shut every loophole that enables them to pay far less in taxes than they ought to be. "But it will lose American jobs!" I hear the right cry. Look around you; we pamper the wealthy we pamper corporations, and they ship our jobs overseas ANYWAY. Then they laugh in our faces.

The wealthy are pretty good at looking after themselves--that's how they got to BE rich. And they've got an awful lot of right wing legislators in their corner. Over the last 30 years, more and more American wealth has been concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. The gap between people like us and the Koch Brothers is truly a gulf of obscene proportions. You keep that trend up long enough, and it will eventually lead to public unrest, at very least. I believe we're watching that anger beginning to manifest in Wisconsin right now. If you don't believe me, ask the Romanovs. Or maybe King Louis Capet XVI of France. Except it's a little late in both cases.

Sorry, the Wealthy can't have me in their corner, too. I don't seek to punish wealthy people out of spite, but I see absolutely no reason to continue to pamper them at the expense of everything and everyone else, either. Yesterday, the Teaparty Congress showed it's utter contempt for a little over half the population of the US--women--when they withdrew all funding for Title X defunding Planned Parenthood. Which would made not only abortions but protective cancer screening, STD care, and contraception harder to get especially for low income women. Theydon't care if you've voted Republican for years--if you're a woman, they still kicked you in the face and without a qualm.

Go ahead and keep turnning down their Dux beds and fluffing their swans' down pillows if you want. But excuse me if I beg off of both details. I'm not going to kiss their feet when I want to piss on their shoes.
i am, and have always been, a liberal. but here in new york state you are treated like shite by state employees who have some of the best benefits available in the country. they don't care if you complain, because you cannot get rid of them.

my husband worked for ibm for 25 years. i am not eligible for medicare yet. we've been married for 27 yrs. ibm has this year raised what we pay for my health coverage from $250 to $800...that's within a couple hundred dollars of his complete pension. we cannot do it. so now i have to apply for medicaid...i am sickened at the thought. we do not receive food stamps; we get no help with rent; we do get HEAP. the only thing we ever received was cait got SSI and medicaid because all children with life-threatening diseases do, no matter what the household income.

hence my withdrawal from effexor's generic this past week; even the generic is over $200/mo for my dosage. so this bi-polar, ptsd'd woman is looking to go on the dole and it's as if the last vestige of my self-esteem has been stripped from me, the last bit of facade that i was of the so-called middle class. and there ain't a damn thing i can do about it.
ibm has this year raised what we pay for my health coverage from $250 to $800...that, of course, is per month. just wanted to be clear.
Great post. This is definitely a very important event in American politics that will have ripple effects all across the country and set the tone for the next two years at least.

I'm so sick of politicians telling the middle class that THEY have to make sacrifices while they keep giving tax breaks and sweetheart deals to corporations and the wealthy. The people are right to protest this state of affairs. They should have been protesting YEARS ago. Maybe Egypt reminded us all that demonstrations actually CAN work if you're serious about them.

I sincerely hope this is the beginning of a new era where the people finally start to rise up and demand that their government represent THEM for a change. They won't have the benefit of wealthy donors like the Tea Party has, but they'll have the strength of numbers. They just need to find a way to get through to the low-information citizens who accept whatever explanation for the poor economy that the corporate media feeds them.
First off I want to say to the fascists who cry out loud for the poor billionaires and government concessionaires in the corporate sector that making companies be loyal to their workers isn't asking for a handout. To ask employees to accept cuts and limits is one thing but stripping them of their right to collective bargaining is not a measure to reduce costs. It is an attempt to let the masters be masters once again. Why do so many fascists feel that it is so unfair to make the corporations pay more yet are happy to balance the budgets on the backs of those who have the least? Kissing wealthy asses hasn't saved a single job. Why is it okay in the minds of fascists to leave a middle class family struggling to survive on what is left over after taxes, and I am talking about all of the taxes not just income, that the poor pay exactly the same for as the rich? I'm pretty sure that if I had a million dollars that I'd pay the same price and taxes on my loaf of bread as the man who has ten dollars, but which one of them paid a larger percentage of his income to get it? How is that "fair"?

In Wisconsin the people are being asked not just to give in the name of balancing a budget they are being told that they will have to bow before the powerful to keep their livelihoods. There is absolutely no need to take away collective bargaining rights in order to balance the budget there. The people who say it is a power grab are absolutely correct. I watched the auto industry and the UAW go back and forth for years, with the unions bowing to nearly every demand made in the name of "saving jobs" yet at every turn the industry sought ways to avoid any union at all by shipping those jobs that others sacrificed pay and benefits to keep were shipped to the third world and while getting tax breaks to boot. The auto industries still went broke since they spent all of their efforts to make investments pay off better and not worry about keeping their U.S. factories up to date or efficient. They sacrificed a good product in the name of profits. They were given welfare to keep the few jobs they had left here and for the most part they were either busily handing out bonuses to overpaid idiots who put them in the hole in the first place. Where did that money come from? Was it all taken from wealthy people? The people most likely to have investments in that industry? The people who had taken their money and ran? No, it came from every one who paid a dime in income taxes and don't lay that crap about poor people not paying taxes out either. Everybody who works pays taxes, everyone. Many may be just giving the government an interest free loan until those taxes are refunded but when was the last time a bank loaned you any money without charging you for it?
Wisconsin is just one more place where the wealthy and the powerful show their true nature. Just like Reagan and PATCO it has little to do with the money and all to do with the power to punish and force and mistreat employees by forcing them to absorb costs that the investors and owners do not want to give up from their profits.
Sing the party line all you want to fascists. There is little you can do to change my mind in light of the evidence. We the people will continue to fight the power. We will not be stripped of our rights as workers and citizens in the name of the profit margin.
Please excuse my lapses in grammar and sentence structure. I am tired and angry and there is no edit function in the comment field after posting.
Unions are giving unions a bad name.

I understand the government bureaucrats union wages are significantly higher the comparable private sector wages and benefits. The reason certain people are so anti union is the insistence that we maintain unsustainable benefit packages.

They are running our economy into the ground. The CEOs that are getting paid hundreds of millions of dollars a year are even worse, but that doesn't make what the unions are doing right.
Tax the rich. Tax the corporations. And above all TAX THE CHURCH!!!!!
Understand: you can only unionize what cannot be outsourced.

Yes, Unions made the middle-class, and we would all be better-off unionized. But, you cannot have open borders and unions; they are a contradiction until the whole working world is organized.

Meanwhile, those who are displaced from jobs or fearful about their jobs are terrified when you ask them, not for charity, but to uphold a life they cannot afford.
Catlion--The 3 billion dollar figure is a projection over the next 3 years. It's an estimate used as a Fox News talking point. All of which is irrelevant. Wisconsin is 8th on the list of states in financial trouble. You wanna see bad budgeting? Come to Illinois or California.

The real issue is union busting. Plain and simple. That's what this is about.
This is a great story. Keep up the good work. People have to start realizing what the tea party and the republicans are really up to. The Roman Empire fell, because Rome stopped paying it's soldiers. They lost the equivalent of our police and the rest is history. We have to stand up for the gains that the unions have made over the past hundred years. Unfortunately too many of the younger generation, don't realize that what we have, people had to shed blood for. It's not too late. I only hope the public employees of Florida have as much guts as those of Wisconsin. We really need to get rid of that bastard Rick Scott! rated!
The protests in Wisconsin are the best news I've had in a long, long time. We can't just keep playing the same game -- it's rigged against the average citizen and has been for a long time.

I heard a discussion on a conservative radio talk show tonight in which a caller was saying that the shortfall in Wisconsin is about 8 billion, and that the cuts proposed by Walker's bill will only account for about half a billion -- 1/2 billion -- still leaving about 7.5 billion to contend with.

This is a ruse to further disadvantage average citizens, nothing more. This is the typical societal approach of conservatives.
excellent article.

the GOP blindly demonizes huge swaths of the population without any concept of who they are demonizing or why.

(The why especially....)

Unions have already been so maligned in this country, it's unbelievable. My father and brother, both union members, claim to hate unions and they vote for the Republican party.

They've been unionized their entire adult working lives. They don't know what the life of a non-unionized worker would be.

Stripping away collective bargaining rights violates a bigger principle of freedom than most people can imagine.
Let chaos reign! Man the barricades! I'll be in the john.
rate
"They also need to be more open to change, especially teachers unions," I totally agree and feel like I can say that given that my husband is a teacher in WI and we are fighting one hell of a fight. I've posted on this too. He and his union decided not to call in "sick" but are taking other direct action. I'm so glad to see that this is such a hot topic on OS. Thanks for this balanced approach.
"Balance" is surrender to the fascists.
The news of all the liberals backing the Wis. democratic state senators is such a welcome one indeed. All we heard after 2008 was "elections matter, we get our way!" Moaning and complaining about how republicans were the problem because they they controlled 40 seats and because democrats couldn't get it together, nothing could get passed. Now suddenly a Republican governor who told the people what he would do, gets elected and get this, actually moves forward on it (note to dems, probably a good future strategy), the liberals are pissed and now championing the strategies they blasted when they were used against them. How typical. Guess what, you lost, your schools suck, teachers who are average at best are asked to be parents, parents are worthless, students are lazy, spoiled brats who need to be sent to Afganistan for 2 years so that maybe they'll appreciate what they have. The sad fact is, we all KNOW this to be the truth, instead we want to hope and pretend we live in this fairytale land instead, where we are all equal and the same and it should be law that everyone has to share anything extra they might have because they actually work for it. Look in the mirror and take yourself out to the trash because you are all so full of crap. Now respond about how, "but look at what you did, or this or that or anything besides pointing the finger at yourself and actually taking responsibility this lazy world of "I'm entitled" crap you've created. YOU are the problem.
As opposed to the lazy world of "I'd gladly suck the Koch Brothers dicks" that you belong to "Citizen Justice."

(Next time you post use your real name you gutless coward.)
I'm going to post this in every blog about walker and his bullshit.

CLICK ON WALKER HERE